Friday, March 20, 2015

The Secret of Prayer, Part I

What is prayer?
I recently pondered this question after following several news articles on the fight between an atheist group (represented by the ACLU) and the city of Warren, Michigan. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the atrium of the Warren Civic Center, you will find a prayer station. Established almost six years ago, volunteers of a local Warren church are available to pray for you if you so desire.

The atheist group won their fight and will now open a reason station on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the atrium. The reason station will offer an alternative to prayer: human reasoning.

As we approach the National Day of Prayer on May 7th, I will post a series of articles that will unfold some of the secrets surrounding prayer.   

What is prayer? Prayer is communication.
Prayer is communicating with a higher power. Some people audibly talk to God while others do so silently. As recognized in the Jewish religion, prayer is also a two-way form of communication. God talked with Abraham, and Abraham talked with God. George Washington Carver, a renowned scientist of the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, often described his relationship with God. Carter asked God to reveal to him the mysteries of the peanut and attributed his discoveries to God’s answer to him (Federer, 1994). Glue, nitroglycerin, and cosmetics are just of few of the copious products Carver developed from the peanut.

What is prayer? Prayer is acknowledgment.
Prayer is acknowledging that neither The Theory of Evolution nor The Big Bang Theory provides an adequate explanation for the many wonders of our world. It is the acknowledgment that you and I don’t hold all the answers. And ultimately, when it comes to a terminal diagnosis, the act of prayer acknowledges that even medical science does not hold all the answers. In Hidden Beauty of Pollination, Louie Schwartzberg unveils the enchanting complexity of the rhythm of nature. After viewing just a small portion of the film, it was evident to me that this world was planned and purposed in a sophisticated way.

Ted Talks, uploaded May 9, 2011

What is prayer? Prayer is a catalyst.
Prayer can change you, change others, or change circumstances. Years ago when my son had to have emergency surgery, I was caught off guard. For fleeting moments, I engaged the question Why? Why did this have to happen? After my family and I prayed, my anxiety decreased. I transitioned from the questioning mode to the survival mode. I believed God was with us in this situation. So, prayer was a catalyst of change in me. And in the end, my son’s recovery time was much shorter than the time frame the doctor had given us.

The secret of prayer
So, here’s the first secret: Prayer is liberating. It is freedom from the burden of perpetual human reasoning. While an atheist group will now have an opportunity to open a reason station in the atrium of Warren’s Civic Center, prayer releases its willing participants from the burden of human reason. According to Ferguson, Willemsen, and Castaneto (2010), forming a partnership with God through prayer can reduce stress. 

When analyzing any subject, I always use the critical thinking technique of questioning: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? But I've learned to add a 7th element—What if? When my husband and I went on a cruise a while ago, we had to fly to Florida. In the process, my luggage was lost. An airline representative told me they would try to deliver the luggage to the cruise ship by the time we boarded it, but when the ship’s engines began to grind and groan as it sluggishly departed from the dock, I did not have my luggage. The luggage did, however, turn up the next morning outside our cabin door. I learned a valuable lesson that transformed the way I travel. I now ask myself What if? What if I am told the overhead compartments are too full for my carry-on bag, and it will need to be checked. What if my luggage does not arrive when I arrive? Consequently, I created a travel uniform: cargo pants and a safari vest. 

Both garments are literally veneered in pockets. When I travel, these pockets accommodate Ziploc bags of not only my essentials but also my non-essentials for the upcoming 24 hours.

With that said, I ask: What if there is a higher being? What if the higher being visits from time-to-time? What if the higher being manifests from time-to-time? What if the higher being demonstrates the supernatural from time-to-time? And what if it’s simply alright to reduce the stress from the burden of applying human reasoning to every circumstance? 

How has prayer influenced you? This is the story in you. Share it.

Domonique 

Connect with me on Pinterest to view creative ideas about writing:

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References

Federer, W. (1994). America’s God and country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. St. Louis: MO. Amerisearch, Inc.

Ferguson, J., Willemsen, E., & Castanet, M. (2010). Centering prayer as a healing response to everyday stress: A psychological and spiritual process. Pastoral Psychology, 59(3), 305-329.

Ted Talks. (May 9, 2011). The beauty of pollination. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqsXc_aefKI

Forget-Me-Not Friday: Memoir Writing Prompt

Sharing your memories is important so you are not forgotten. You have thoughts, feelings, opinions, experiences, and lessons that are valuable to others. I like to refer to these as your forget-me-nots. It reminds me of the German legend of the forget-me-not flowers (McGrath, n.d.). 

This is my version:
Once upon antiquity, in a faraway land, a knight sat at the edge of the Danube River. Dressed in armor from head to toe, he was unbreakable, but his heart was soft for the love of his life. His thoughts were focused on her gentle beauty and sweet kindness. Then the soft blue wildflowers that grew along the Danube caught his attention. He decided to pick a fistful for this maiden for whom he was smitten. The flowers were blue skies, each crowned with an amber star. He eyed a long, limp reed in the shallow of the water, so he stepped in the water to fetch his find. 

Suddenly, the heavens drew its shade. That made the wind angry, so it tiptoed behind the knight, grumbling and whispering its intent. As the knight bound the stems of the blue flowers with the reed, the wind grew wild and loud—so wild that it thrust the knight into the deep of the Danube. The knight fought the wind and the water to stay afloat. His metal fists held the bouquet ever so tightly.

The knight continued to fight the wind and the water, but his strength could not save him.

The knight continued to fight the wind and the water, but his courage could not save him.

The knight continued to fight the wind and the water, but his love for his maiden could not save him.

Just as he took his last breath, he saw his lovely maiden in the midst of the storm. He mustered enough strength to toss the bouquet to her and gasp, “Forget me not.”

From that day forward, these blue flowers--little blue skies, each crowned with an amber star-- have been known as forget-me-nots. People all over the world cherish these little flowers in remembrance of their loved ones whether they are away temporarily or have transitioned from life to death.

A flower is “the blossom of a plant” (Dictionary.com, para. 1), and we have all had blossoms in our lives. These are our forget-me-nots—little blue skies, each crowned with an amber star. Because you are unique, extraordinary, and one of a kind, it is worth sharing your forget-me-nots.

~

Today's writing promptWhen you think of the color blue, what comes to your mind and why?

My writing prompt response:

When I think of the color blue, the following things come to mind:
  • Sky
  • A chair I once bought for my family room
  • A label for the feeling of sadness
  • Navy blue shoes I bought at Jacobson’s
  • Blue jeans
  • Sapphires
  • Morning glories
These are all blue things that I have seen, heard of, or experienced. Of all these blue things, to me, the most intriguing blue thing is the sky. The sky is an infinite entity filled with unknown mysteries, which can be a bit scary while flying in an airplane. As the plane’s nose dauntlessly penetrates the sky, it is oblivious to the unknown secrets the sky veils from it. In contrast, when my feet are grounded, the sky is soothing. It reminds me of possibilities and hope. This is as soothing as a loving hug with that added bonus of a gentle rub of the hand on the back before the release. The sky is also inviting, so I accepted. And here I am . . . floating . . . floating under the gentle command of its wind



When you think of the color blue, what comes to your mind and why? This is the story in you. Share it.

Domonique 

Connect with me on Pinterest to view creative ideas about writing:

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References

Dictionary.com. (2014). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/flowers?s=t

McGrath, S. (n.d.). Forget-me-not cakes. Retrieved from http://www.forgetmenotcakes.com/name.html

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday

With thousands of people participating in the social media trend #ThrowbackThursday (#TBT), over 100 million photos have been posted. It's the practice of sharing old photographs, lyrics, and links to songs along with the memories behind them. It has taken Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like by storm.

Have you joined in the fun yet?
You should join in the fun because nostalgia has benefits. Pondering over fond memories makes you feel better. Take a soothing bath in those times when you felt happy, protected, and loved. According to Hepper, Ritchie, Sedkikdes, and Wildschut (2012), the strength you gain from these positive memories can  have the following effect:
  • improve your self-concept
  • boost your mood
  • feel accepted
  • help you make connections between the then and the now
You can conjure up fond memories by looking at old photos, listening to old songs, smelling an aroma, touching an object, and/or tasting a food item or drink. 

Participating in #TBT is easy:
Participating in #TBT is easier than you think. 
  • Select a picture that was taken at least five years ago (one associated with fond memories).
  • Post it on your favorite social media site.
  • Write a brief description of the nostalgic memory.
Note that social media is not the only way to participate in #TBT. Start a #TBT scrapbook. Each Thursday, select an old photo that generates fond memories. Insert the photo into a scrapbook (make it or buy it). Then write about the fond memories centered around the photo. Before you know it, you'll have completed the scrapbook.
~

My Throwback Thursday
Shirley Temple, America’s Sweetheart, has been enjoyed by little girls for decades. How many little sisters bonded over Heidi, Bright Eyes, and Poor Little Rich Girl? My sister and I sure did. 

                                                   I am on the left, and my sister Andree is on the right

Sitting together on our couch in the den, we watched Shirley Temple movies on the weekends. My sister and I waged wars against our tears when Shirley Temple’s mother was killed by a car died. We smiled quarter moon smiles when Shirley Temple puffed up her chest, balled up her fists, and balanced her curly head atop her shoulders as she told her antagonist what she was not going to do. At times, our little fingers spread like fans across our mouths in anticipation of what Shirley Temple would do next. And we performed these actions no matter how many times we watched each Shirley Temple movie.

For as long as I can remember, Shirley Temple curls adorned our heads to complement our matching Easter outfits each year.

When I think of my sister, I think of how we bonded over going to Girl Scout meetings, selling Girl Scout calendars and cookies, going to Sunday school, selling red kool-aid at our makeshift stand, and watching Shirley Temple movies.

Oh my goodness!--what a special blessing it is to have a sister.

What memories do you have of sibling bonding (or rivalry)? This is the story in you. Share it.


Domonique

Connect with me on Pinterest to view creative ideas about writing:
  • Why should you write?
  • How should you write?
  • The quirks of writing
  • When should you write?
  • What is writing?
  • What is a writer?
  • In what should you write?


Reference

Hepper, Ritchie, Sedkikdes, and Wildschut. (2012). Nostalgia. Retrieved fromhttp://www.southampton.ac.uk/nostalgia/what_is_nostalgia/